Pretoria: 17 November 2022
South Africa’s stature as a global authority in maritime sector education in terms of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW Convention) remains intact as once more confirmed by the international body in London recently.
The IMO’s 1978 STCW Convention stipulates standards of training, certification and watch-keeping for seafarers. According to the IMO: “The main purpose of the Convention is to promote safety of life and property at sea and the protection of the marine environment by establishing in common agreement international standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers.”
This latest positive outcome of the IMO sponsored independent audit of South Africa over two years effectively means that the country now proudly retains its IMO “Whitelist” status along with several other IMO Member States in the category and which in turn, literally means that Certificates of Competence (CoC’s) issued by South Africa to the country’s seafarers spread across the world retain their validity status.
The report of the audit outcome on South Africa was delivered by the IMO’s Secretary General, Mr Kitack Lim to the United Nation’s maritime sector body’s Maritime Safety Committee in its 106th session held in London on 31 October 2022.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), a State agency under the Department of Transport, is responsible for management and administration of seafarer education and training in terms of the STCW Convention as it is also for keeping a register of seafarers.
For just over two years since the IMO in February 2019 announced a possible removal of the country’s Whitelist status, along with 89 other countries, SAMSA has been hard at work to ensure this did not occur and, according to SAMSA’s Deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller, the agency was now elated that it had succeeded in the endeavour.
Capt. Keller was on hand in London to receive and welcome the IMO Panel’s evaluation outcome and later expressed delight for the verdict, describing it as the “best news for South Africa, SAMSA, the seafarer and general maritime sector community in a while.”
The IMO verdict delivered in London simply read that: “The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, having solicited and taken into account the views expressed by competent persons, selected from the list established pursuant to section A-I/7, paragraph 7 of the Seafarers’ Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code, reports that the Government of South Africa, Party to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, has communicated information as required by regulation I/8, paragraph 3 of the Convention (2nd cycle report) and section A-I/7, paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Code, and that the information considered by the competent persons referred to in section A-I/7, paragraph 7 of the Code has demonstrated that full and complete effect is given by South Africa to the provisions of the 1978 STCW Convention.”
This was in reference to the audit’s findings on aspects of the STCW Convention relating to among others, convention regulations to be met inclusive of the STCW Code, and evaluation involving implementation measures and monitoring and compliance measures.
On landing back in South Africa a few days ago Capt. Keller said: “It is with great privilege to announce today that South Africa officially passed our IMO STCW Audit as assessed by a panel of experts.
“Our having successfully met and satisfied the IMO STCW Convention evaluation requirements means that we, as South Africa, give full and complete effect to the STCW convention. This also means that the South African STCW Certificate of Competence remains recognised internationally, and is in good standing, and therefore South African seafarers and companies do not have to worry about losing their jobs because their CoC’s fall off the whitelist,’ said Capt. Keller.
Extending a word of gratitude to all those that contributed to the achievement both at SAMSA and elsewhere, Capt. Keller said: “As a team, we have all worked hard towards this moment. Despite the many challenges that we faced as an organisation over the last few years, we again proved that through great adversity, only by working together can we achieve great things.”
“As South Africa, we can now actively pursue more STCW Regulation 1/10 agreements with other flag states to help create more job opportunities for South African seafarers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the IMO audit outcomes of South Africa’s STCW Convention continued positive compliance status comes as the country had recently signed a series of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU’s) with a few countries relating to the mutual recognition of seafarer’s certificates.
Among these were Ghana and Panama. These two countries (represented by their administrations) concluded COC recognition MOUs with SAMSA during the staging of the IMO’s World Maritime Day Parallel Event (WMDPE) in Durban last month – an historical event itself for South Africa insofar as it marked the first time the IMO has held the annual global event involving some 175 of its Member States on African soil.
Meanwhile, also remarking on the latest IMO/South Africa STCW Convention development, SAMSA Chief Examiner, Azwimmbavhi Nelwamondo said: “I don’t know what to say – I thought I’d have a speech, but I am speechless. I’m having to think hard about this. As a great man once said, ‘it seems impossible until it is done’.
“I didn’t think doing one’s job could bring so much joy. I am entirely grateful to the team that worked alongside me this whole time. The focus and ability they demonstrated has been amazing. The quality of the work they did was amazing. It is testament to their efforts that the Independent Evaluators made no non-conformities against the Quality Standards System we have built.”